Ilford HP5+ 400 B&W Film Profile/Review
This tech page is for Ilford HP5+ Film, or HP5PLUS. This is a high speed B&W film that comes in 35mm roll, 120 roll, and various sheet sizes. It is a panchromatic black and white negative film with a nominal rating of ISO 400. HP5 has been around in various versions (HP4, HP3, etc.) for a really long time and is basically the long standing all purpose 400 speed film in Ilford’s lineup similar to how Tri-X is Kodak’s long standing 400 speed film in their lineup.
There are many ways to develop HP5PLUS. Following Ilford’s recommended development in their technical information sheet on their website is a good place to start if you’ve not developed this film before. If you send your film in here to Simple Film Lab, we develop HP5PLUS with Replenished Kodak XTOL with constant rotary agitation as standard practice. The development time is 7:00 at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. We use a 1+4 water+vinegar stop bath between development and fixing. We fix all BW films in Kodak Fixer.
There are many ways to meter and expose HP5PLUS. If sending HP5PLUS in to Simple Film Lab to process and scan, we recommend taking an incident light reading of the darkest part of the scene you want to retain details in and subtracting 2 stops of exposure from that reading. For example, if the darkest part of the scene that you want to retain detail in reads 1/125 shutter, f/4.0 at ISO 400, either set the shutter to 1/500 or close down the aperture to f/8.0, or a combination of the two to reduce the exposure by two stops. If you don’t have a light meter, then set your camera exposure compensation to +1 stop, and that will generally result in an acceptable exposure for most situations once scanned in and density corrected. If you want to add a stop of shadow information to the image, then place the darkest part of the image you want details in one stop down from the meter reading instead of two. HP5PLUS has enough highlight exposure latitude that this is safe to do and still retain good highlight information for pretty much anything except the highest contrast scenes.
Using Simple Film Lab, here’s the characteristic curve for HP5PLUS overlaid with the Ilford standard 0.58 Contrast Index that it is scanned in with:
The scale along the bottom is exposure EVs, the scale along the left is the measured density as seen by the film scanner, meaning raw ADC values. The EV 0 mark is an 18% exposure card exposed correctly via an incident light reading with a Sekonic light meter through a T-Stop rated lens. Every dot along the curve is a full stop of light. The black curve is Contrast Index that the emulsion is digitized and linearized with, the green curve is the actual measured density values of the emulsion using the development described above.
Dynamic Range/Exposure Latitude
Following the development practice described above and scanned in with the Ilford standard CI 0.58, the film base plus fog starts to happen at EV -4 and is clear film base by EV -6. On the highlight side, with replenished XTOL it pretty much hits maximum density by +9 EV.
With the above information, in Adobe Lightroom, the visible dynamic range of an exposure is +7 EV to -6 EV. HP5PLUS provides about 1 stop of under exposure and 2 full stops of over exposure protection while still maintaining acceptable black levels and full highlight retention for the full visible dynamic range in Adobe Lightroom with no change in development. These over-under limits can be exceeded if you are OK with reduced performance at the extremes of the exposure scale. This equates to an approximate exposure index range of EI 100 to 800, which is excellent. Push processing will result in bringing the toe contrast up and providing more shadow detail, but at the expense of highlights and a much higher contrast index.
HP5PLUS has good resolution for a 400 speed film. Ilford’s spec sheet doesn’t quote spatial resolution or have an MTF chart, however, with that being said, it looks a lot like Kodak 400TX. It’s not exactly the same, but I’d probably confuse the two if I didn’t know which was which when looking a sequence of images shot on both films back-to-back. In terms of grain, again, it looks a lot like 400TX. HP5PLUS is in many respects totally interchangeable with 400TX as a film and if they’re both shot and developed exactly the same are nearly indistinguishable from each other. I’ve done a comparison of the two here.
Here’s a link to a Flickr Album of more images shot on Ilford HP5+. I’ll add more images as I have them available.
Downloadable Sample DNG Files
As part of this tech sheet/film review I’m making a ZIP file available that contains some Adobe DNG files that are a sample of what you would receive if you sent your film into Simple Film Lab to process and scan. It’s relatively large, but if you want to see what you can get, worth a look. Click Here